Great start to season: Ishpeming Hematites use big opening inning to win Spring Swing high school softball opener
Ishpeming (1-0) got off to a great start, building a 5-0 lead in the first inning.
Hailey Hytinen hit a leadoff double, while the subsequent batter, Kadie Kaukola, was hit by a pitch. That put two runners aboard for Payton Manninen to hit a three-run homer and make it 3-0.
Following another runner reaching base, the Hematites got another double from Abby Koski to put runners on second and third before back-to-back walks led to Maddy McNab crossing the plate to score one more.
Koski scored during the next at-bat following a pickle between third base and home to score the fifth run for IHS.
The propelled Ishpeming for the rest of the game.
“I think it was really important because then everybody just kind of relaxed a little bit because we had a lead, we’re good, and they didn’t worry about making a mistake,” Ishpeming coach Ben McGuire said. “So I think that was really good.”
The power-hitting Manninen also handled pitching duties for the Hematites, striking out seven Hancock batters in her six innings. The Bulldogs got on the board in the top half of the second with a sacrifice RBI by Sydnie Scholie that scored Megan Pelto. It remained 5-1 for a couple innings, with the Hematites still in front after four.
Scholie, a freshman, also pitched in her first high school game for Hancock. After the first inning, the young pitcher stayed calm and didn’t give up another run until the fifth. That kept the Bulldogs in the game and led to Brooke Koskela’s deep two-run shot to make it a 5-3 score in the top of the fifth.
“We had a freshman pitcher out there for her first time ever,” Hancock coach Randy Heinonen said. “She just battled through that first inning and she was excellent the rest of the way. I couldn’t be prouder of her.
“A good pitcher always forgets, and she did that. She didn’t get rattled and she kept throwing and she did a great job.”
Now a close game for the first time since the game’s start, Ishpeming got back-to-back clutch doubles from Kaukola and Manninen in the fifth to get the lead back up to four runs. The pair of sophomores were a big reason the Hematites won.
“(Manninen) had a home run and a double, and then she pitched really well,” McGuire said. “It was the first game for everybody.
“Defensively we played pretty well, Kadie (Kaukola) made a couple of nice plays in center field. We did exactly what we needed to do for the first game of the season.”
Both teams went scoreless in a fast sixth inning, which meant the visiting Bulldogs were unable to use one last try to make a comeback in the seventh inning due to the time limit.
Hancock has six freshmen on its roster, while the Hematites are also young with seven underclassmen. The development of both teams as they get more experience will be something to watch for.
With the Bulldogs playing as many young players as they did, Heinonen hopes Friday’s experience will help in the future.
“What’s great is that we had a lot of freshmen out there in the lineup,” Heinonen said. “(It was) their first game, a lot of jitters, and you see that it took a little while for them to settle in. But when they did, the future’s bright for us, and we couldn’t be prouder of how our young girls played.”
Ishpeming is off today before getting back on the dome turf for a pair of games Sunday — at 9:30 a.m. against Newberry and 5 p.m. against Norway.
Hancock had one more game Friday night against Baraga, then caps off its weekend at 1:30 p.m. today against Newberry.
“It’s very exciting just to get in here, we haven’t done anything on a field at all, and any of that stuff you can’t really practice in a gym because you don’t have room,” McGuire said. “It’s really beneficial and the kids were really excited.”
Travis Nelson can be reached by email at tnelson@miningjournal. net.